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Storytelling in Miniature

John Taylor Arms
John Taylor Arms (American, 1887–1953) is considered one of the preeminent etchers of the 20th century. Often using finely honed, hand-made tools, he created strikingly detailed images of the Gothic architecture he so admired. Arms trained as an architect at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and by 1914 was established in an architectural firm. However, a gift of an etching kit, given by his new wife in 1913, began his transformation into a printmaker. After service in World War I (1914–18), Arms devoted himself full-time to etching.

As much as he admired Gothic architecture, Arms did not restrict himself entirely to renderings of medieval European churches and cathedrals and Gothic inspired details. As can be seen in the prints featured here—some of them among the smallest in the exhibition—simple country churches and narrow medieval streets, Vermont landscapes, Mexican villages, and natural rock formations also fascinated the artist. Regardless of subject, however, all of Arms’s etchings express a devotion to detail and technique—undeniably a reflection of his training as an architect.